Users note virtualization foot-dragging among app vendors

Healthcare, retailing see reluctance to change among specialty apps makers

Although they have moved to virtualize servers, some IT managers have found there are applications, particularly specialized ones for healthcare, retailing and other industries, where vendors are wary of software support in virtualized environments.

Seattle Children’s Hospital, for instance, has about 330 virtual servers based on VMware but also 300 physical servers as the healthcare organization migrates toward a virtualized IT environment, says Wes Wright, chief technology officer there. One thing holding back more virtualization, says Wright, is that many specialized medical-industry applications still lack support and certification to run in a virtualized mode.

“We would love to have virtualized environments,” says Wright. “It’s cheaper, less power consumption, and when I stand up a virtualized application, I can easily put a copy aside.”

However, he says smaller software development firms in particular have been reluctant to support or certify their specialized healthcare applications for a virtualized environment. While some of them will point to Food & Drug Administration procedures for certifying applications for hardware as an obstacle, the more common excuse is simply that they’re not familiar with virtualization and are reluctant to change, says Wright. “They say, if you’re going to run it in a virtualized environment, we won't support it.”

So this holds back the trend towards virtualization. Foot-dragging from application vendors has also cropped up in the grocery industry, according to James Sims, vice president of information technology and chief information officer at Save Mart, the Modesto, Calif.-based grocery retailer with 245 stores, three warehouses and about 20,000 employees.

Save Mart, which has virtualized a substantial portion of its servers for VMware, especially since the acquisition of around 125 Albertsons stores two years ago, has found there have been a lot of specialty-application vendors in the grocery retailing industry reluctant to do something new.

“Why should this force me to buy servers that just sit there?” asks Sims, noting applications are often more efficiently deployed on virtualized servers than physical ones. But Sims adds he was gratified when NCR finally began to support their point-of-sale systems on VMware, and Save Mart is using this virtualized POS in several of its grocery stores today.

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